President Donald Trump urged senior US Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to declare the 2020 election results “corrupt” in a December phone call, according to handwritten notes from one of the participants in the conversation.
The notes of the December 27 call, released Friday by the House Oversight Committee, underscore the lengths to which Trump went to try to overturn the results of the election and to elicit the support of law enforcement officials and other government leaders in that effort.
Emails released last month show that Trump and his allies in the last weeks of his presidency pressured the Justice Department to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread 2020 election fraud, and the department’s inspector general is looking into whether department officials tried to subvert the results.
“Understand that the DOJ can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election,” then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen is quoted as telling the former president, according to notes (PDF) taken by Richard Donoghue, a senior Justice Department official who was on the December 27 call.
“Don’t expect you to do that,” Trump said. “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”
Trump also urged department officials to investigate “legitimate complaints” of “electioneering fraud”.
Just weeks earlier, Trump’s own Attorney General William Barr had declared the department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results. Rosen repeated this conclusion to Trump during their conversation.
“Sir we have done dozens of investig., hundreds of interviews, major allegations are not supported by evid. developed,” Rosen said, according to Donoghue’s notes.
At one point Trump accused Rosen of not “following the internet the way I do” in coming up with allegations of voter fraud.
“We are doing our job,” Rosen told Trump. “Much of the info you’re getting is false.”
The December 27 call took place just days after Barr had resigned, leaving Rosen in charge of the department during the turbulent final weeks of the administration that also included the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, in which pro-Trump loyalists stormed the building as Congress was certifying the election results.
“These handwritten notes show that President Trump directly instructed our nation’s top law enforcement agency to take steps to overturn a free and fair election in the final days of his presidency,” committee chairman Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.
She said the committee had begun scheduling interviews with witnesses. The Justice Department earlier this week authorized six witnesses to appear before the panel, citing the public interest in the “extraordinary events” of those final weeks.
Trump tax returns
Meanwhile, the Justice Department on Friday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to hand over Trump’s tax returns to a House of Representatives committee, saying the panel has offered “sufficient reasons” for requesting the material.
The department’s Office of Legal Counsel reversed course and declared that the department erred in 2019 when Trump was still in office when it found that the request for his taxes by the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee was based on a “disingenuous” objective aimed at exposing them to the public.
“The respect due a co-equal branch of government requires that we presume the Committee will handle the tax information it receives with sensitivity to taxpayer privacy concerns,” wrote Acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel.
Unlike other recent presidents, Trump did not publicly disclose his tax returns.
In February, the US Supreme Court allowed for New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance to obtain Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation.